Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Movie review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Koba as played by Christopher Gordon in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Koba as played by Christopher Gordon in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Q: What do you call a bunch of chimpanzees on horseback, toting automatic weapons defending their homeland against outsiders?

A: A Tea Party?

Yes, this second prequel-reboot may have moved on from the cautionary tale of genetic engineering and corporate greed of its surprisingly good predecessor, 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But there's still some contemporary US political allusions underneath its spectacularly rendered clash of the species.

Read more: Weta's evolutionary thinking on new 'Apes' film

With its story of a post-apocalyptic human society lacking for everything except weapons, there's a interesting possible side-effect to this one -- Charlton Heston, star of the original Planet of the Apes and NRA poster boy will be spinning in his grave knowing he begat the year's biggest gun control ad.

Subtext aside, this is still a great movie, with the technical wizardry of the first film expanded to a far grander scale.

But it's there to help propel the story, one that's complex but still action-packed and delivered with a compelling tension right from the opening scene that shows us these apes sure ain't much related to those bone-chucking guys from the beginning of 2001.

This might start out as a clear us-and-them battle between the last humans and the ascendant primates but soon confounds expectations about why its two tribes go to war.

You're soon left wondering whose side you're on, especially given the apes' laboratory-enhanced leader Caesar (Andy Serkis returning to the role) is by far the most charismatic most clear-thinking figure on either side. Even if does talk about himself in the third person, er, primate all the time.

Watch: Trailer: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Video

Of course, with a name like that, it's inevitable things will go a bit Shakespearean for him on the leadership front. Humans, who the apes thought had long gone due to the simian virus that swept the world, arrive in their forest on an expedition to restore power to their San Francisco survivor community via a local dam.

For a while, the movie turns into "Beneath the Hydroelectric Scheme of the Planet of the Apes" with Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and team negotiating a truce with the troop, until, of course, things go wrong with guns, and eventually we're back in town with humans being herded into cages, just as they were in Heston's day.

That battle rages on for a bit too long and the big finale does default to action movie formula. But like Rise, Dawn richly rewards one's affections for the original series while delivering a tense thrill-fest. And yes, the apes as rendered by those guys down the road at Weta Digital are amazing.


Cast: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell
Director: Matt Reeves
Rating: M (violence and offensive language)
Running time: 130 mins
Verdict: Apes of wrath ride again in thrilling further instalment

- TimeOut

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